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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oh Those Yahoooos!

Yahoooo for Yahoo?
by Suze Allen 955 Words

When I log onto my computer every morning, copious emails from my yahoo groups have flooded my inbox overnight. I belong to five. There’s one for my daughter’s preschool, one for my homebirth collective, one for the theatre board I work with, another for a literary committee I serve on and one from my neighborhood parenting group. It’s this last one that’s especially intriguing, informative, and drives me absolutely crazy. It is a world unto itself with a fascinating cast of characters; a culture of parents that I live among but hardly know. And when I’m cruising Cortland for errands or hanging out with my kids at Holly Park, I can’t help but wonder if the other Mom’s and Dad’s are Mac whose son is older and attends surf camp, Sally whose daughter won’t nap anymore, Caitlin who is building an eco-friendly house or Dr. Rapine whose fierce political take on car emissions and “no praise” for children stirs the group to near riot.

There is one person on the listserve who I am obsessed with. Her name’s Rianna and she knows something about everything! Seriously, she weighs in on sleep training, the right stroller for cobblestone sidewalks in Europe, kid friendly brunch places, organic bedding, financial planners, nipple confusion, local merchants going out of business, car seats on airplanes, where to get knives sharpened, how to choose a preschool, whether to buy a Peg-Perego highchair or a Svan, where to find a cool hair colorist, a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, how fast plastic bottles break down and become hazardous to your child and even where you can go for a cheap cocktail. Rianna’s emails are well researched, impeccably written and she is not prone to brevity.

Although, I’ve never met her, I see her in my mind. She is tall and willowy because she’s found the perfect Pilates teacher and takes yoga classes daily at a local studio. Her haircut is fabulous and her daughter speaks Spanish and French and goes to all the most popular music and toddler observation classes. Rianna’s husband adores her and they have a loving nanny who watches little Zinnia late on Thursdays so she and her husband can have date night at various expensive restaurants throughout the city and take in a play at ACT or some music at The Fillmore. Rianna is “Super Perfect Mom”. So up on everything that she makes me feel like a country bumpkin. I imagine that before she had Zinnia and stayed at home she was a high-powered executive in a Fortune 500 company working 80-hour weeks. Now that it’s just her and Zinnia, Rianna has so much time on her hands she manages her neighborhood parenting group with all the fervor that she used to use to seal a five million dollar deal.

I, on the other hand, have written in to sell my “gently used” Ergo backpack, tell how my daughter potty trained at 18 months, share my rainy day kid activities and tell everyone on the list why they should take my writing classes and get massages from my husband. I am “Super Dud Mom”. I really couldn’t tell you about family friendly vacation spots in Mexico or how to get your kids to sleep anywhere but in your own bed. I have never hired a financial planner, a gardener, a knife sharpener, or bought furniture that wasn’t from Ikea. But I think my kids like me. And I have a few friends who are Moms. We mostly talk about how exhausted we are, how sorting through your children’s clothes is so time consuming and how much we despise playgrounds. When I compare my life with those in my neighborhood parent group, I feel dull and listless. Like I’ve never really lived. The polar opposite of Rianna.
I don’t know how my mother raised me without all of this input. I know I am chock full of petroleum products and unorganic beef but I feel pretty well adjusted. My brain seems to function at a normal level and I used to think that I was fairly well read, but a lot of the information I find in my parenting yahoo group just makes me feel like I haven’t done my research. Why don’t I know more about the speed at which plastic breaks down in the microwave or what month to sign my son up for T-ball or how I could have hired a sleep trainer for my daughter before my personality changed from sleep deprivation? Just reading the neighborhood yahoo group is making me feel like a bad parent.

A few days ago, I even got reprimanded from the moderator for sending too many emails about my husband’s massage business. She told me that if I sent one more email trying to sell the group something that I would be labeled a “spammer” and asked to leave. Ouch!

I keep thinking that I’m going to unsubscribe but it’s become a guilty pleasure, like tuning into daytime television. Will Sally rally enough Moms to make new baby meals for Kennet? Can baby Jessie transition into her crib and finally sleep through the night, giving her poor parents their life back? Will Jack’s cross-country movers treat his stuff well? Where is the best sushi in the city? Will Dr. Rapine rail against the capitalist system again? And is there a good book on grieving for a pet?

I don’t actually know many people in my neighborhood but I know what they are thinking about. I know what their young children are up to and I know that most of them seem to have a lot more money than I do. Isn’t that weird?

Having a Baby Means Having a Baby

Having a Baby Means Having a Baby
by Suze Allen

It happened to me. I’ve watched it happen to my friends, too. A fog comes over you somewhere in your thirties and you start wandering around and wondering, “Is this it? This is my life? That’s all?” And far away in your brain, you hear a voice; faint at first but growing ever louder, “You should have a baby. Yeah, a baby. Why not just go ahead and have a baby?” And it makes so much sense. Something bigger than yourself. So you try and try and you try to get pregnant and it doesn’t happen and at first you’re glad it’s not happening yet because maybe you’re not ready or your relationship is not ready or your bank account is not ready, and then you’re freaked out because it’s not happening because now you are ready or if you aren’t ready it doesn’t matter because all you’ve ever wanted to be is a mother and then you’re desperate for it to happen so you seek medical attention because it’s not happening and you can’t relax and it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever happen so there must be a medical explanation or remedy that can help you make it happen because suddenly you want to procreate more than anything you’ve ever wanted in your life.
Your existence becomes about sperm meeting egg. And you are going nuts because you don’t know when or even IF conception is in your future. And you start thinking about adopting but you really want to have the experience of birthing and every time your period shows up you feel like a failure. The lack of control is frustrating, anguished and the perfect way the process prepares you for life as a parent. In the age of planning, of five-year goals and career timelines, you just can’t schedule your pregnancy.
Children are Zen teachers, whether they show up in your womb or not. Just the act of trying to get pregnant teaches you that control is an illusion. You cannot know anything.
I know, I know, we live in an amazing age where you can choose a sperm donor. You can decide when to have your c-section; what astrological sign your baby will be. So why can’t you decide to be a parent, get knocked up and pop one out? Then you can check it off and be on your merry way. “Check. Had the baby. Great! Got her. But honey, now what the hell do we do with her? She doesn’t seem to be going away. I don’t have a minute to myself. I want my life back.” But this is your life. Let the longing and the whining begin.

But when you have your own child, there is no getting your life back. Parenting is your life now. And just out of curiosity why have children if you’re intending to rush back into the life you had before they were born? Wouldn’t it be more rewarding if the life you knew pre-child died to you and reincarnated into something else? Possibly something better; something you could never have imagined?

Children demand that you sharpen your intuitive skills. They insist that you prioritize your life to cull out the madness. They give you a deep purpose. Hey, sure, child rearing is hard and harder for some of us than others. But I believe it is no more difficult than deciding what you want to be when you grow up or how to love your partner and make a life together or how to lead a fulfilling life.

The biggest problem is that children are messy. They come in with their little souls and their needs and ideas. Yeah, we’re responsible for them but we don’t own them and they are citizens of their community and their world. I think the pressure of Good Parent /Bad parent sends even a lackadaisical personality over the edge with a mix of extreme guilt and undying honorable intentions. I want to put a stop to the questions we ask new parents, like. “Does she sleep through the night, yet?” That is a loaded question and implies that your baby is bad or you’re not doing something right if that is not the case. I’m sick to death of hearing about “sleep training” and “potty training. If a child is three and still wearing diapers you can get that askance look and the scarlet letters -BP – Bad Parent appears on your chest!
The American culture urges Moms and Dads to parent our children like the public schools teach; everyone matriculating with their chronological age group and not advancing until they have completed the required curriculum. Sleeps independently – 0-10 days. Sleeps through the night- three months. Solid Food - 6 months. Speaking clearly -1 year. Potty trained -2 years. Attending pre-school- 3 years. Doing absolutely everything on their own – 4 years old. Good-bye and Good Riddance!!!
In the America’s, a culture founded on independence, there is no room for personality and freedom and difference. I have been looked at askance because my children nurse through toddlerdom and they sleep with my husband and I. We hear how “dysfunctional” they will become from nightlife in our big bed. That makes me laugh because this penchant for independence our culture propagates is nefarious. Like the race has evolved from the very separateness we insist is healthy and right. Young men can build arsenals in their bedrooms and predators can stalk our children on computers and we may never suspect a thing until something horrible happens

I think it all starts with The Crib. You get ready to have a baby and you decorate a nursery and set up a crib. A completely separate place for your baby to dwell. And I wonder? Why would a tiny creature who spent 9 months in an insularly tight, warm womb listening to the sound of her Mommy’s heartbeat want to be thrust into her own sleeping quarters as soon as she is pushed through the ring of fire? Evolution says babies need to stay with the Mom to survive unless you are a reptile. And most adults sleep with their partners. We like sleeping with people we love and even sleep with people whom we don’t love just to feel some sort of connection. The whole – “You’ll roll over your baby,” “We all seep better for the those ten minutes when we aren’t hurtling ourselves down the hallway to a hungry or in need of some snuggling in the dark, little being. Oh, I understand the implication of co-sleeping. SEX How can a couple have sex with THE BABY IN THE BED!!! She’ll be scarred for life. What if she is scarred for life from crying and screaming alone in a dark room and no one coming to comfort her? What if she swallows her needs because her cries mean nothing?

I do understand boundaries and I understand that as parents we need to put the oxygen mask on first but I wonder why we push our little ones from the nest so quickly. It all goes so fast anyway and so slow. Once we have ‘em, we got ‘em. We wanted them more than anything so now here they are and they are our lives.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weaning My Toddler, Weaning Myself

Today’s the day. Zeke and I are saying good-bye to amma. I think we mean it this time. I’m at my wit’s end.

Last night while he and Hattie were tandem nursing, his teeth began their usual descent into my nipple, at first irritating and then excruciating.

“Zekie, teeth!” He switched positions – but no relief. I got supremely disgruntled.

“Zekie, teeth, one more minute and then done.” I pop him off.

“Honey, this is crazy, why don’t you just stop having amma, okay? Tomorrow morning we can have a good-bye to amma party.”
“Okay” he says and seems fine with it.

“We’ll make a cake.” We fall asleep.

This morning when I refuse Zeke his transitional amma it becomes clear that he thought I was talking about an amma party last night. I can just imagine his dreams. Giant, milk-engorged breasts-fat dripping nipples just for him. An endless breast-feeding orgy with breaks for chocolate cake.

He tries to latch on anyway but makes it a joke. “Ammeenah” he says in his best baby voice. He’s not quite joking anymore but he doesn’t seem devastated when I say, “No.” I talk to him about his friends, Charlie and Riley and Derek who don’t have amma anymore. I explain how his classmates at School Around Us don’t nurse. How he is so lucky that he nursed longer than all his friends. Giving up amma makes him an even bigger boy. As I say all that, I don’t feel remotely sure that I am doing the right thing. Comparing and contrasting. Equating amma with being babyish. But of course being a Mom means always second-guessing yourself.


Making the cake is annoying. Instead of mixing the ingredients with love, I’m cranky. I want my coffee. I want more sleep. I want not to bake before 10am. And both kids insist on helping. When Michael finally sends me to the couch with my coffee, I am a mess. I try to concentrate on Sesame Street. It’s the episode where Big Bird’s nest has been destroyed by a hurricane. The metaphor is not lost on me.

I want to renege but it’s party time. Cake and candles. Michael frosts each piece with whipped cream from a can. He does beautiful little flower designs. We all keep saying “good-bye amma” while I choke back tears. Michael tells Zeke that he is glad for almost four years of amma. He says that it has made Zeke tall and strong and healthy.
I recount how Zekie latched right on in the birthing tub and never let go.

The cake is moist and chocolaty. Hattie Rose leads the bye, bye amma dance party. While I videotape them, I can’t help but notice how tall Zeke is. Another transition to the big boy. Already, I miss his almost four- year -old face becoming like that newborn as he takes my breast in his mouth. How he cups his hand around it so sweetly and looks supremely content. And I know I will miss The Power of the breast! I could lure him home from playgrounds and the children’s museum with the promise of amma and reading books on the big bed.

As bedtime approaches, I wonder if I can hold firm. I’m not sure if I can say good-bye to amma. I don’t know what else I can give him or do for him to make him that happy.